If a woman is pregnant and diagnosed with Hodgkin disease, treatment options depend on several factors. The woman and her doctors must take into account the extent of the cancer, how quickly it is growing, how far along the pregnancy is, and the woman’s own personal preferences.
If the cancer is diagnosed during the second half of the pregnancy and is not causing problems, a woman can often wait until the baby is born (sometimes by inducing labor a few weeks early) before starting treatment. This is the approach that is safest for the baby.
If the Hodgkin disease requires treatment during the pregnancy, chemotherapy using either one or a few drugs may be given, based on the circumstances. If possible, this is delayed until later in the pregnancy (typically after the first trimester, when the baby’s organs are fully formed).
Radiation is not often given because of concerns about the possible long-term effects on the unborn baby. But a few studies suggest that as long as very careful precautions are taken to aim the radiation precisely, limit the doses, and shield the baby, pregnant women with Hodgkin disease in lymph nodes in the neck, underarm area, or inside the chest can have this treatment with little or no apparent risk to the baby.
The need to avoid radiation also limits which imaging tests can be used to help determine the stage (extent) of the lymphoma or to see if treatment is working. CT scans, PET scans, and x-rays all use radiation, so they are avoided if at all possible. MRI scans and ultrasound can often be used instead.
Last Revised: 02/09/2016